But Piazza Santo Spirito is special because it’s an everyday piazza—one that offers so much: a daily morning market, countless cafés and restaurants with patios, and shops filled with interesting things like baskets, seeds and grains, or school supplies and art materials. And then there’s the church of Santo Spirito, with its unusual curvy façade and a Renaissance interior by Brunelleschi. I feel so lucky that this wonderful example of architecture sits just a two-minute walk from my home—that I can just wander in any time it’s open. I love how people congregate around the octagonal fountain in the center of the piazza, along the stone benches that sit beneath the generous canopy of trees, or on the sunny steps in front of the church.
Yet it’s something more than these easily-identifiable attributes. Piazza Santo Spirito is a comfortable space—like a big outdoor family room. You see a variety of people here, engaged in all sorts of activities. There are grandparents keeping an eye on their grandkids, artists and students working in sketch pads or at easels, school children chasing each other, locals and visitors enjoying a civilized lunch or a Prosecco in the evening, as well as the homeless who call this piazza home. It’s a very real sample of life in a city. As I wrote in the book, it’s not always beautiful per se—the fountain gets polluted, graffiti shows up on the buildings and nights can run late and loud—but it is authentic and alive and endlessly interesting.